St. Francis College Launches New Hub for Faculty Development
A new hub at St. Francis College provides faculty with unique professional services designed to help them ensure students' academic success. SFC created it with support from a significant grant awarded by the United States Department of Education.
Debuting in spring 2021, the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (the CAFE) is a locus for faculty development within the College's Office of Academic Affairs. Under the leadership of Molly Mann, Ph.D., its new director, the CAFE hosts workshops, administers programs and offers individualized coaching that will enrich student instruction, ultimately enabling students – particularly from populations historically under-represented in higher education – to meet intended learning outcomes.
"As an addition to the wide range of resources St. Francis College already has in place to ensure student success, the establishment of the CAFE demonstrates a commitment to enhance the faculty experience in order to advance overall achievement and well-being within our community," said Dr. Mann, who joined SFC in March 2021 after a turn at St. John's University, where she served as an assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Division. Dr. Mann has a master's in library and information science and a doctorate in English from St. John's University. "The CAFE is an extraordinary environment where faculty find a holistic safety net of sorts, where they can turn for the training and open exchange of ideas that allow them to do their very best work on behalf of our students."
The CAFE is already undertaking several initiatives to position faculty to guide all students to achieve their full potential.
In support of work undertaken by the Department of Literature, Writing and Publishing to fine-tune the curriculum and teaching methodologies used in the required general education first-year writing courses, the CAFE is organizing faculty training sessions called "Crafting Engaging Multimodal Assignments," led by Caroline Hagood, Ph.D., assistant professor of literature, writing and publishing and director of undergraduate writing. The training is meant to ensure that the College's instruction continues to meet the needs of students enrolling at SFC across a range of writing aptitudes.
The CAFE is also supporting a collaboration between SFC and the Charles A. Dana Center, a research unit at the University of Texas at Austin that advances math education from kindergarten through college. The Dana Center hosted summits with SFC faculty on March 2 and April 13 and will offer additional math instructor trainings through May 2021. These sessions aim to ensure SFC's math education delivers equitable outcomes for all students regardless of background or collegiate preparedness.
In the coming months, the CAFE will offer faculty training sessions covering trauma-informed pedagogy – to support students through the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath – and incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into the classroom setting, among other topics. Longer term, the CAFE will develop programs that ensure students effectively take advantage of SFC's co-curricular learning opportunities to best prepare them for their post-collegiate goals. It will also host writing groups for faculty to support their research and creative works and provide leadership development to department chairs as well as onboarding support for new faculty.
The CAFE is funded through a $2 million Department of Education Strengthening Institutions Program grant awarded to the College in October 2020. The grant helps higher education institutions expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the institution's academic quality, management and fiscal stability. SFC is applying the grant money to a variety of areas across the institution, in addition to the CAFE.